Moore and Darling climbdown on referendum date

The Scottish National Party seized on comments made by Scottish Secretary Michael Moore on the BBC Politics Scotland programme today, and by former Chancellor Alistair Darling on Sky’s Murnaghan programme this morning, in which both accepted the autumn 2014 timescale for the independence referendum.

This comes after a year of the anti-independence parties making a fuss about the date – with 2012 beginning with Downing Street trying to bounce Scotland into an early referendum, and the Scotland Office publishing a timescale for 2013 which didn't even reflect the procedures of the Scottish Parliament.

On BBC's Politics Scotland, Mr Moore accepted that the autumn 2014 timescale is no ‘barrier’, and on Sky Mr Darling said that because the referendum is going to be towards the end of 2014 he would not be seeking a place in Labour’s Shadow Cabinet at Westminster, given his commitment to being part of the anti-independence campaign.

SNP Campaign Director Angus Robertson MP said:

"After a year of huffing and puffing and trying to dictate the timescale of Scotland’s referendum from Westminster, Mr Moore and the anti-independence parties have collapsed in a heap over the date.

"It is a very welcome step forward, but begs the question of why they spent such a long time making a fuss about something that even the Prime Minister says he is ‘not fussed’ about.

"In its submission on the referendum, the Electoral Commission drew particular attention to the need to allow proper time to prepare for the referendum, and we agree.  The Commission’s positive comments on the Scottish Government’s proposed timetable were echoed by many others, such as the STUC.

"Having lost on the process, this is a serious blow to the credibility of the No campaign in terms of the substance of the debate on Scotland’s future.

"We have always said that we have no objection to Westminster extending a ‘section 30’ power to the Scottish Parliament, but it must be on the basis of no strings attached – and now that they have conceded on timing, the anti-independence parties should stop trying to dictate other terms for Scotland's referendum."